Do You Know a Narcissist?

With few exceptions, all of us want to feel good about who we are, take pride
in our work, and gain the approval of those who matter most to us. Life is
sweeter when our worth and value are validated. But what makes a person
love himself above anything or anyone else?

Studio 5 Contributor and clinical psychologist Dr. Liz Hale shares insights
and how to cope with a narcissist. and how to identify if you might actually
be one.

With few exceptions, all of us want to feel good about who we are, take pride
in our work, and gain the approval of those who matter most to us. Life is
sweeter when our worth and value are validated. But what makes a person
love himself above anything or anyone else? What makes self-absorption so
important that they become blind to their deleterious effects on other
people, and uncompromising, inflexible and even manipulative and abusive?
Dr. Liz is here to help us clearly define the characteristics of a narcissist. We
hear so much about narcissism; what is it and do we ever misuse the label?

Narcissism comes from a tale in Greek mythology that describes a handsome
youth, Narcissus, who, one day, while stopping to drink from a forest pool,
catches a glimpse of his reflection in the smooth water. Smitten by his sight,
he falls madly in love with his own beautiful image. He lies next to the pond,
staring at his own reflection in the water. But whenever he reaches into the
water and tries to embrace the image, it dissolves. Unable to kiss hold or
anyway capture his true heart’s desire, he dies of unrequited love.

The Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) is the most widely used
measure of narcissism in social psychological research. Although several
versions of the NPI have been proposed in the literature, a 40-item forced-
choice version (Raskin & Terry, 1988) is the one most commonly employed in
current research. The NPI is often said to measure “normal” or “subclinical”
(borderline) narcissism (i.e., in people who score very high on the NPI do not
necessarily meet criteria for diagnosis with NPD). However, research has
found that people who score high on the NPI are more likely to cheat in
game-play and romantic relationships, take more resources for themselves
and leave fewer resources for others, value material things and be
obsessively concerned with their outer appearance.

The 7 factors of the NPI that are roughly scored are the following: (We can
discuss on-air how some of these traits are to be expected with self-starters,
people in the media, politicians, etc. I scored 23; Darin, what about you?)








Reflections and Recognitions of Narcissism

Healthy Self-Esteem vs. Narcissism

Think of someone in your life who exudes an abundance of self-worth and
ask, “In what ways do you think you need to grow or change?” If the person is
psychologically healthy, the list will be long. Self-wroth is based on truth and
reality not pretense. Healthy people know they are always a work in progress.
Narcissists, on the other hand, will tell you they have no changes to make.
Although people with narcissism live in anguish, they refuse to admit that
their own behavior has anything to do with their discontent.

Unconditional Love vs. Conditional Love

To maintain a relationship with narcissists, it’s imperative to remember they
generally detest themselves on some level. They have fully incorporated the
values of some highly judgmental social system, albeit a family, community
or even religion, where love was given or withheld depending on external
criteria. (“If you are beautiful, thin, talented and athletic, you’re loved; if
you’re not, forget it!”) People who are socialized to believe that their worth is
based on their performance become addicted to perfectionism the way drug
addicts become hooked on their intoxicants. They crave praise because it is
the closest they ever get to feeling unconditionally love.

When parents, especially, are consistently attentive, regardless of mistakes
and poor choices, a child internalizes the message that he or she is a person
worth loving. They learn that they do not have to earn or demand their
parents’ affection, nor do they have to manipulate them to get it. When we
know we will always be accepted, we don’t mind admitting our limitations or

Enjoyable Interconnection vs. Invisible Emptiness

Think of someone who has a seemingly abundant sense of self-satisfaction.
Now think about the way you feel after an interaction with this person. If you
feel warm, nourished and valued, you‘ve probably encountered someone with
a healthy self-concept. If, on the other hand, the conversation leaves you
feeling ashamed, confused, self-doubting or invisible, break out the caution
sign. You may be dealing with someone who has enough narcissistic traits
that a close relationship may make it impossible to achieve if this person is
unwilling to recognize their debilitating vulnerabilities.

Heartfelt Empathy vs. Disdain & Disregard

Parents, understandably, see their children as the center of the universe.
However, excessive attention can make a child perceive the world as existing
only for their benefit. If a child is never made to wait or told “no,” they never
learn how to adjust for others or learn to self-sooth. Children who are always
rescued when disagreeing with others never learn compromise. Children who
are not shown how they hurt others never get to practice empathy.

In Narcissism, there is a overvaluing and undervaluing of others. It is so easy
to say, “Well, I would never be unempathic towards those who are
hurting,”……yet, we are sometimes. You don’t have to look far to recognize
our lack of empathy with Hollywood celebrities. We have become preoccupied
with exalting them when they’re up and kicking them when they’re down,
just like the old Don Henley song. Many of us, not just the press and the
paparazzi, have harshly criticized Britney Spears or more recently Kim
Kardashian and her 72-day marriage. We have not always been emphatic but
contemptuous as these reality starts just try to be human in the public eye.
We don’t know what goes on behind what we see portrayed through the
Internet, media and social networking sites. Error on the side of mercy.

Self-Disclose vs. Self-Protect

People struggling with narcisstic traits never laugh at their imperfection or
mistakes because their foibles are a matter of life and death, to their sense of
esteem, anyway. Practice telling others about a mistake you made in a way
that’s designed to make them laugh with you. If we want to be
unconditionally loved, we have to practice being the real deal so that when
people choose to love us it is the real person they love; the one without the
pretenses. There is nothing better than to be truthfully known and loved
because of it!

Draw your children, family and friends closer through your charming, warm
and beautifully imperfect self. No other substitute will do.

A former radio host of Bonneville’s “Dr. Liz Hale Show,” Dr. Liz has become a
household name to many. As Studio 5’s resident shrink, she discusses a wide
variety of hot-topics ranging from sex to stress. (Sometimes all in the same

Dr. Liz is a transplant from Seattle, Washington, although “a few” years ago
was a college co-ed cheering for the Utah State Aggies. While USU football
hasn’t changed through the years, she remains a loyal fan.

Dr. Liz, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, has been in private practice for 12
years specializing in marriage and family relations. She currently serves as a
board member on the Utah Commission on Marriage and is a popular
speaker at their annual conference.

Her greatest joy in life comes from being with her own family and working
with other families along the Wasatch Front at her downtown SLC practice.

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